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Über dieses Buch

A scholarly perspective of a soldier's own challenges working in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). This work examines how regional/cultural knowledge and language ability contribute to improved leadership in a UN operation, based on the author's own experiences as a staff officer in South Sudan.



Chapter 1. As a Guinea Pig in South Sudan

Istepped off the aircraft in Entebbe, Uganda: in Africa once again. The U.S. Air Force simply gave me orders and sent me on my way; I was an American soldier stepping off onto Ugandan soil. I came to Africa to do an Army job and as I got further from my Air Force “tribe” I merged into the American military “tribe” with soldier as the simplest description. Uganda was to be just a brief introduction before continuing to my final posting in South Sudan. During my preparation, I often wondered if I would really do anything worthwhile while in South Sudan. Would I be defending our nation or national interests? Would I be helping people? Would I contribute to a greater project?
Robert B. Munson

Chapter 2. Does the United States Do Peacekeeping?

Having finally touched down in Uganda at Entebbe International Airport, I could at last get off the plane, stretch my legs, and take stock of the situation, even if everything was a blur. Here in Entebbe, I had to contend with the UN bureaucracy but not the usual stresses of landing in a foreign country and could now start the mission I had been preparing for. In the next couple of days, kind people led us through in-processing with a good dose of UN introductory training for our further deployment to South Sudan itself.
Robert B. Munson

Chapter 3. Why Are We Here?

Iarrived in Juba from Entebbe, finally in South Sudan! I anticipated a year in the mission but to truly understand what I was doing, I needed to look to what brought the United Nations to South Sudan. The proximate reason came from the fact the UN Security Council established the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on July 8, 2011, the day before the country became independent. Its roots, though, reach back much further into history. Many South Sudanese speak of 50 years of warfare leading up to independence. To understand the mission, we needed to appreciate what they were saying.
Robert B. Munson

Chapter 4. There Is No Intelligence in the UN: Working for UNMISS

Iarrived as a peacekeeper in South Sudan ten months after the country’s independence. By now UNMISS was established and operating throughout the country. Our short stay in Uganda brought to the fore some doubts about UN efficiency, and we wondered about the intelligence within and behind the design of the peacekeeping mission. Later I would find out that this lack of intelligence was literally true.
Robert B. Munson

Chapter 5. J-5: Where Hope Was (Often) a Plan

Within the UNMISS military force, the most important staff officer posts were those in J-5, plans and policy (and sometimes parties—more later). I write this simply because for 12 months I was the J-5 chief. During this time, I had the privilege of leading and working with a total of 12 officers: three Kiwis, three Norwegians, two Kenyans, two Chinese, and two Germans. At any one time, we had six guys in the office (including me): four lieutenant colonels and two majors, from both armies and air forces. The apparently large turnover came from the fact of varying arrival times and tour lengths. One German, the New Zealand, and the Norwegian officers remained for six-month tours and the other German for nine months. The Kenyan and Chinese officers deployed for one year; however, with different tour starting dates I overlapped two officers from each of these nations.
Robert B. Munson

Chapter 6. Does PoC Mean “Protection of Cattle”?

The UNMISS military force understood its primary task as and concentrated its efforts on the “Protection of Civilians,” often shortened to PoC. We were there to help deter violence, provide security, and protect the South Sudanese people until their government—police, courts, military—could do it on their own. How to actually accomplish this noble mission was the hard question.
Robert B. Munson

Chapter 7. Two Flags, Two Perceptions: Life in UNMISS

Iarrived in South Sudan wearing two flags. Like all UNMISS military personnel, Velcro held the UN seal in place on my right shoulder. My left shoulder, as those of the other American military and police officers, proudly displayed the U.S. flag. These two flags symbolized different perspectives on life in Juba and the UN mission.
Robert B. Munson

Chapter 8. Living an UNMISS Life in Juba and South Sudan

All of us in the UNMISS HQ had two flags and two perceptions, but a common foundation came from our life together in South Sudan’s capital Juba. This UN peacekeeping operation did not suffer under daily threats—such as mortars, terrorists, or a high crime rate in the city—and thus we were able to live a fairly “normal” life away from work. Living as outsiders in Juba gave all of us a similar range of experiences, but nothing really brings out the true feel of a place other than living for weeks or months and getting to savor the day-to-day life, whether of UNMISS or the city of Juba.
Robert B. Munson

Chapter 9. UN-English and Other Curious Habits

The official language of South Sudan is English, and most of the governing officials and SPLA leaders in Juba use the language. I speak English. The working language of UNMISS is English, and all staff officers and civilians are supposed to be able to speak, read, and write this language. Taken together, it seems as though this should be a recipe for success. However, while widespread in the mission and country, the language was fraught with dangers but also with humor.
Robert B. Munson

Chapter 10. Christianity Does Not Stay in the Church

The traffic in a city like Juba, its chaos, its bota botas and taxi vans, but also its large number of new, expensive four-wheel-drive vehicles always reminds me of a short vignette I once read. A missionary in Kenya wrote of a moment when he was driving through Nairobi with his small son. He mentioned how blessed they were that they had their Land Rover. His son looked out the window at all the people walking by on the typical, crowded urban African street and asked “daddy, aren’t those people blessed?” I believe many of the people on the street, a large number of whom were perhaps poor, would have simply answered “yes.”
Robert B. Munson

Chapter 11. I’m Here, They Are There

In Iraq and Afghanistan many soldiers have died; almost to the end of my service in UNMISS, the military component had not even fired a shot. When I was in Iraq, I was on the receiving end of several mortar attacks; in South Sudan, I never felt threatened and my weapon remained stored in a footlocker. Certainly the situation for UNMISS changed in December 2013, but I was no longer there. War fighting with nation-building versus peacekeeping while nation-building are two different missions. For regular infantry soldiers, peacekeeping can perhaps be a dull life in the field; a staff officer experiences different challenges. When serving in UNMISS, one could not forget the home front. Family life and what one leaves behind play a part in the missions equation and figure into one’s morale and how one approaches peacekeeping duties. An excursion back “home” from South Sudan helps complete the story since all soldiers leave families and friends behind when they deploy to a mission. Certainly my experiences in a peaceful mission do not reflect those of all UN peacekeepers by any means, but I would imagine the day-to-day routine of whatever sort dominates anyone’s time—especially the staff officers—in most missions around the globe.
Robert B. Munson

Chapter 12. Tying It All Together

After returning home, I have had time to reflect on my time as a “guinea pig” in UNMISS. Before leaving for South Sudan, I posed two questions about my upcoming UN service. First, I asked how my academic background would help me better appreciate the people around me and comprehend what was happening. I wanted to understand not just the large events better, but also the small, unique happenings. Second, I wanted to figure out if I could do my job more effectively with this background. I asked if I could apply my knowledge to more successfully carry out my duties, if I could lead more effectively, if I could make a more substantial contribution. In general, by the end I knew my background and previous experiences helped me as the UNMISS J-5 chief, but, more importantly, I needed to look further and actually define how this happened. From these two questions, I hoped to draw out some more durable observations of working in a peacekeeping operation—what I had learned while wearing the UN’s blue beret.
Robert B. Munson


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